Oklahoma City, you've always wanted a rivalry with Dallas.
No hiding that.
I mean, all those trips down I-35 to watch the Red River Rivalry or shop the Galleria or explore the Six Flags have been fun. But really, everyone has had that moment where you've told someone there where you're from, seen a look of “Oh, you're from Oklahoma City? How quaint” and wanted to wipe it right off their face.
Yes, a little rivalry would be nice.
Now, OKC, you have one courtesy of the Thunder and the Mavericks.
The way Oklahoma City and Dallas look at each other will never be the same. Not after what happened last spring. Not with what this season promises.
After a grand playoff series last season, these two teams are among the Western Conference favorites this season. Can the experience of the Mavs triumph? Or can the youth of the Thunder win out? Can the big-market, big-spending team buy another title? Or can the small-market, upstart, build-it-from-the-bottom bunch win out?
The differences in the two franchises make the rivalry even richer.
As if to make sure they pick up where they left off, the NBA scheduled them to play four times in 16 days, two exhibitions and two for-real games.
The first came Sunday, a 106-92 OKC preseason victory in Dallas.
Exhibitions and regular-season games are nice, but those games sustain a rivalry.
They do not a rivalry make.
Rivalries are born and bred in the playoffs, and of course, you know what happened last May. The teams faced off in a wildly entertaining series in the Western Conference Finals. The Mavs won in five games en route to an NBA championship, but every game against the Thunder was decided by single digits.
It was a battle.
That series against the Mavs wasn't as frenetic as the first round against the Nuggets. Who could forget George Karl calling out Scott Brooks as cocky? And that was before the series even started.
It only got more interesting from there. There were hard fouls. There were uncharacteristic technicals.
But with Denver losing half of its team — Kenyon Martin, J.R. Smith and Wilson Chandler are locked in contracts with Chinese teams until March — the Thunder-Nuggets rivalry may cool before it ever really gets heated.
And while the Thunder's second-round, seven-game series against the Grizzlies was fearsome, I'm not sure Oklahoma City the city looks at Memphis the city as a rivalry. Maybe it's because the cities are in different regions with different vibes. Maybe it's because folks here aren't regular visitors there.
Or perhaps it's because Dallas and its team have what OKC wants.
An NBA title.
And because OKC and its team have what Dallas wants.
An unbelievably bright future.
The Thunder is a team built not only for the here and now but also for many seasons to come. This is a bunch that you can see making the Western Conference Finals a bunch in the coming years. Ditto for the NBA Finals.
They've got some great veterans. Dirk Nowitzki. Jason Kidd. Jason Terry. But big man Tyson Chandler is gone, taking his defensive-minded ways to New York. Spark plug reserve J.J. Barea is playing elsewhere, too, having moved to Minnesota.
Yes, the Mavs picked up Lamar Odom, Vince Carter and Delonte West, but I'm not convinced that they'll be able to replace what they lost in Chandler and Barea.
Meanwhile, the Thunder hasn't lost any major ingredients, and it's a recipe that keeps getting better with time.
And here's the thing — the Mavs and the good folks in Dallas know it. They know that the Thunder is coming for them, and that means both sides see the other as a worthy adversary. Both sides see the other as a rival.
Who will win out this season and beyond? The defending champs? The youthful upstarts?
That remains to be seen.
But this much is sure — the Dallas-OKC rivalry is on.